Portland’s homeless first in line for new housing

PORTLAND — Dawn Wade said she loves the practical element at her new home in Huston Commons.

“There is no more hurry up and wait, no line for the toilet, showers or lockers,” she said May 4.

Wade is one of 30 new residents at the 72 Bishop St. apartments built as a “housing first” project to create stability for chronically homeless tenants.

“This is a great opportunity; I’m glad to see so many people getting off the streets,” said Carl Boucher, who provides peer support for clients at Preble Street.

Wade was one of the first to move in after struggling for seven years to find stable housing.

Preble Street Associate Director Jon Bradley said the apartments are now 50 percent occupied, and will be filled this month.

The Forecaster

MEREDA announces 2016’s top real estate projects

The Maine Real Estate and Development Association, the state’s leading organization for commercial real estate, has selected the top 10 real estate developments from 2016.
It will present the awards at its annual spring conference, which will be May 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Portland.
The projects selected “exemplify best practices in the industry, contributing to excellent jobs, increased tax revenues and Maine’s prominence as a lifestyle and vacation powerhouse,” Paul Peck, MEREDA board president and an attorney at Drummond & Drummond, said in the release.


More homeless escape streets as Portland opens 30 new apartments

Huston Commons is the city’s third ‘housing first’ facility, based on a national model that provides homes so people can then deal with factors contributing to their homelessness.

Joe Meyer, 62, sits in his new apartment at Huston Commons, Portland’s third “housing first” program for chronically homeless people. ““This is a life-changing type of thing,” he said. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

In Joe Meyers’ new apartment, he has a potted succulent on the windowsill. He has a bed with a blue bedspread. He has shelves stocked with oatmeal and canned vegetables.

But his favorite part is the door.

“I can close the door and be left alone,” Meyers said. “This is a life-changing type of thing. I’m 62, but this is still a life-changing type of thing.”

Meyers has been homeless in Portland off and on for 17 years. He is one of 30 new tenants at Huston Commons, Portland’s third housing development for the chronically homeless. The apartment building is owned by Avesta Housing and run by Preble Street. All residents have been homeless for at least a year or had four episodes of homelessness within a three-year period, but many exceed those standards. One has spent 3,000 nights at the Oxford Street Shelter in Portland.

Megan Doyle

Portland Press Herald

If you build it, they will sleep soundly

LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — What started as a concern for low income families in her community, has spawned into a business for Amy Smith.
Through Healthy Homeworks, anyone who can’t afford to buy a bed can earn one by building it themselves. Each homemade solid wood bed frame comes with a mattress and an encasement that keeps bedbugs out.
There’s one catch: if you want a free bed, you have to work for it and help build other beds that can be sold to the general public. The program just started last year, but Smith is hoping to appeal to more downtown landlords.
“We just opened our doors in September and we had 17 builders by the end of the year,” said Smith. “In the first three months of this year we’re up to 30 people, and our waiting list is 30 more people.”

Amanda Hill


Push for 300 elms for town’s 300th continues

HAMPTON FALLS — Community members are embracing the idea of bringing more American elm trees back to Hampton Falls. The trees grew in abundance in town years ago before they succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease over a period of many decades.

Half a dozen of the majestic shade trees were planted in Hampton Falls in 2007, and now more than 100 trees are slated to be available for planting by spring of 2020.

Organizers of the campaign to restore this natural beauty in Hampton Falls, Larry Smith and Judy Wilson, are working to get as many as 300 elms gracing the town’s roadways in honor of the town’s 300th anniversary.

The order of 100 disease-resistant trees from the Elm Research Institute in Keene reduces the price of each tree to $40. The discounted order was made possible due to individual property owners becoming involved in the project, as well as the purchase of 25 trees by Heronfield Academy on Exeter Road, and 23 trees by Avesta Housing (Meadows at Grapevine Run) on Brown Road.

Nancy Rineman


Avesta plans low-income senior housing in Paris

Avesta Housing plans to transform the historic Mildred M. Fox School in Paris into a 12-unit low-income senior housing complex.

Built in 1885, it was used as an elementary and high school, SAD 17 office space and then continued as the Oxford Hills Christian Academy until January 2016.

The Advertiser Democrat reported that ground-breaking is scheduled for this summer. Avesta will receive historic tax credits for the project. Historic elements such as the original hardwood floors will remain intact, Tom Greer of Portland-based Pinkham and Greer Civil Engineers told the local planning board at a recent hearing on the project, the newspaper reported.

Greer noted that a benefit of being in the village is that seniors will be able to walk most places.

“I think this is going to make it very successful,” he said.


Paris school to become elderly housing

PARIS — Avesta Housing has a green light to begin renovating the former Mildred M. Fox School into 12 low-income senior apartments this summer.

The first and second floors of the schoolhouse at 10 East Main St. will each have six apartments, each with a bedroom, a bathroom and a living and dining area, Shreya Shah, development officer for Avesta Housing, told the Planning Board last month.

The units will be available to those 55 and older with annual incomes of between $19,400 and $26,580. Tentative rents will be between $519 and $623 a month.

Erin Place

Oxford Hills Sun Journal

South Portland’s ‘The Hub’: Old trailer outside, community center inside

SOUTH PORTLAND — The floor tilts slightly to one side, and folding banquet tables serve as office desks.

There’s a coffee pot, informational pamphlets, photos of children, artwork, crafts and food. A small room at the front of the structure contains a book swap and a children’s clothing exchange.

The old trailer that houses the Neighborhood Resource Hub on Westbrook Street has seen better days. But it is a warm, welcoming place, known by neighbors as simply “The Hub” and to neighborhood children as “Merrie’s House.”

Merrie Allen, community builder with Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, an Opportunity Alliance program, runs The Hub at 586 Westbrook St., between Redbank and Brick Hill.

Allen calls it a safe space, where people are free from judgment. The organization strives to break down barriers and unite members of the community.

“People are thriving. There might be things that are in the way, so they don’t look like they are thriving, but they have the love and capacity to give back,” Allen said.

Melanie Sochan

The Forecaster

Maine’s affordable housing could suffer under Pres. Trump’s proposed budget

LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — President Trump’s proposed budget released Thursday could reduce Maine’s affordable housing due to its cuts to the department of Housing and Urban Development.

Thousands of families in Maine rely on federally funded housing. The President’s proposed budget would cut HUD funding by about 13 percent.

President and CEO of Avesta Housing, Dana Totman, one of the largest nonprofit housing agency in Northern New England, said these cuts could cause a chain reaction.

“The proposal is just devastating,” said Totman. “The carpenters, the sheetrockers, the plumbers, the folks who actually build those would not have jobs to do so.”

He said that these cuts could force nonprofits like Avesta, and others like them, to freeze construction of any new affordable housing. It could also force people waiting for housing to wait longer. It could also make people who live in affordable housing lose it.

Chris Costa


Furniture Friends giving help, hope to those with greatest needs

(NEWS CENTER) — We’ve all seen the heartbreaking stories of refugees from Syria: entire families forced to leave their homes – and nearly everything they own – behind with the hope of finding a safe place to live away from the fighting.

Some of them end up here in Maine, choosing to start all over again. And that means not only finding a new place to live but furnishing it, as well.

That’s where a local organization called “Furniture Friends” comes in, helping refugees and others build new homes and new lives.

“Because of the war, the crisis over there, we couldn’t stay any longer,” Yassin explains. His wife and four young kids arrived in Maine from Syria in November, and have slept on the floor ever since. Until now.

Westbrook-based Furniture Friends collects donated furniture and distributes to people in need changed everything.

Tory Ryden